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A record-breaking Burmese python — as long as a giraffe is tall — caught in Florida

Stephen Gauta (left) and Jake Waleri brought the 19-foot python to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples, Fla., to have it measured and donated for studies.
Conservancy of Southwest Florida
Stephen Gauta (left) and Jake Waleri brought the 19-foot python to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples, Fla., to have it measured and donated for studies.

A 19-foot Burmese python — the longest ever recorded was caught by local hunters in South Florida's Big Cypress National Preserve this week. To put the catch into perspective, the snake is as long as an adult giraffe is tall.

It was caught on Monday by 22-year-old Jake Waleri, who brought the python to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in his hometown of Naples, the conservancy said. Officials there measured the snake at 19 feet and 125 pounds, and said it set a new world record for length.

A video of Waleri's record-breaking catch on Instagram shows the python lunging at Waleri as he pulls the snake onto the road by its tail. Waleri and the snake wrestled on the ground until others joined in to help peel the snake off the hunter.

The 19-foot python was caught and killed because it's an invasive species in Florida. The state permits hunters and residents to humanely catch and kill the snakes to prevent them from wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.
/ Conservancy of Southwest Florida
/
Conservancy of Southwest Florida
The 19-foot python was caught and killed because it's an invasive species in Florida. The state permits hunters and residents to humanely catch and kill the snakes to prevent them from wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.

Burmese pythons are one of the largest snakes on the planet. They're also an invasive species running rampant through much of southern Florida. They're wreaking havoc on the state's native animal populations because the pythons have no natural predators in Florida, which is why Waleri spends his nights hunting these monstrous predators.

"It's awesome to be able to make an impact on South Florida's environment," he said in the news release. "We love this ecosystem and try to preserve it as much as possible."

The previous record was set in 2020, by a python caught in the Everglades stretching 18-feet-9-inches and weighing 104 pounds. The record for the heaviest Burmese python ever captured was set by one caught by the Conservancy in June 2022, at a whopping 215 pounds, the conservancy said.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, these pythons pose such a big threat that hunters and residents alike don't need a permit to kill them. The reptiles are, however, protected by anti-cruelty laws, which require hunters to humanely kill the snakes.

Burmese pythons feast on Florida wildlife big and small, from rabbits and house pets to foxes and white-tailed deer. And one Instagram clip from 2022 shows Florida scientists removing a 5-foot-long alligator from an 18-foot python during a necropsy.

The state hosts an annual competition, the Florida Python Challenge, in efforts to keep the populations at bay. The competition attracts professional hunters and amateurs alike, competing for prize money ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Dustin Jones
Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.